UK trade minister Trevelyan to seek closer ties on US trip, deal remains distant

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Britain's International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan speaks during the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum, in London, Britain, October 19, 2021. (Reuters photo)

The United Kingdom will press the United States to remove Trump-era tariffs on British steel and aluminum after the US reached a deal with the European Union in October to remove their levies.

British Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will talk with US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Tuesday in a meeting which aims to strengthen London’s trading relationship with Washington, but a full free-trade agreement remains a distant prospect.

Trevelyan said in a statement that it “is the time to hit the ground running and get on with boosting ties with our closest ally.”

However, despite a trade deal with the US that Prime Minister Boris Johnson touted as one of the biggest benefits of Britain's exit from the EU in the years following the 2016 Brexit vote, US President Joe Biden has since made clear that any such deal is not a priority for his administration.

That has forced London to adopt a different approach of pursuing smaller deals to remove specific trade barriers, resolve long-running trade disputes, and cooperate on world trade reform.

Trevelyan's three-day visit to the US, her first since becoming trade minister in September, will pursue that strategy. The trip will focus on securing state-by-state trade agreements, with her junior, Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, slated to visit California, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma this week to press the case.

However, it’s her push to resolve a long-running dispute over steel and aluminum tariffs that will draw the most attention.

Former US President Donald Trump imposed 25% and 10% tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU in 2018. The tariffs were withdrawn in October, but they remain in place for the UK because of its exit from the bloc.

Last week, the Financial Times cited a communication from a US Department of Commerce official who said that talks with the UK on easing Trump-era metals tariffs could not move ahead, due to British threats to unilaterally trigger Article 16 of the NI protocol, which undermines the peace on the island of Ireland.

In response, the British government accused the US of conflating the issues of Brexit and trade.

The US is the UK’s largest single trading partner, with total trade reaching 201 billion pounds ($266 billion) in the year ended June 2021, British government figures show.

Trevelyan will meet investors in New York City to promote the UK on Monday, traveling to Washington on Tuesday to meet US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and members of Congress and then to see Raimondo.

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